The recent surge in right-wing populism and its flourishing in social media have reinvigorated interest in conspiracy theories, the conditions under which they take hold, and their harm to democracy. But the theorization of conspiracy theories often relies on two premises formulated in the mid- and late-20th century that: (1) conspiracy theories mimic, in their holistic and narrative structure, scientific theories, and (2) they represent stigmatized, anti-official knowledge.
Alongside recent examples from German conspiracy thinking – from ideas of "Umvolkung“ to the "Reichsbürger“-movement, Eva Marlene Hausteiner argues that both the theory-like quality and the stigmatization are under pressure: Through the user-fueled, fragmented communication modes in social media – even within relatively enclosed echo chambers – stigmatized conspiracy theories exist alongside, and dissolve into, disjointed conspiracy commentary. The latter manages to seep into the official political debate and is increasingly able to shed its stigmatized status.
Hausteiner will formulate how this transformation may impact democratic public debate, especially since Germany's largest opposition party “Alternative für Deutschland” (AFD) has entered into the Bundestag.